Pegging in the park

Bright sunshine in London, and I’m being paid to be in a park. I’m doing a piece about disease epidemic control and Llamas. I mentioned it a few weeks ago. The subject matter is pretty dry on the surface but it’s fun in the execution. I’ve got tanned deeply, while making money, and mostly it involved having conversations with bemused strangers about llamas and disease control. I can think of worse things to do with a day.

A large part of the time I was “Pegging”. But apparently there’s multiple meanings of the word pegging. When I said to two women if they wanted to do some more pegging for me, they reminded me that perhaps I was using a word that had shifted context. Pegging involves a woman with a strap-on, and a man. So I suppose I could go pegging in a park in the Kings Cross area. This being London it’s bound to have happened before. But that’s not what I meant by pegging. Not today anyway.

Today I had loads of clothes pegs with colourful socks attached to them. The socks tell you that you may have been infected with a disease that turns you into a Llama. You need to report to our tent for testing. I was mostly encouraging people to stealthily attach clothes pegs to the backs of unwary strangers. If someone got infected they’d come over to our tent and ask about the sock. They’d end up meeting a young epidemiologist from UCL, who would demonstrate a large model of a lateral flow test, which is the future of testing for outbreaks. You can have the test sent to your house super quickly and then use it like a pregnancy test. Then you get a diagnosis from a photo of the result online, and you haven’t left the house, gone on public transport, sat in a doctor’s surgery etc. People can be sent to treat you at home.

After they have their diagnosis they can choose to make some llama ears or facepaint themselves to look like llamas, so they can get used to their pending change of life. Then I might come and try and persuade them that perhaps the world would be a simpler and more pleasant place if all the people turned into llamas. If they agree with me they get a sock on a peg to go and infect more people. So it’s combining science with playfulness, and using the game to bring the next players.

I learnt the last time I did it that, on a sunny day outside all you need is two kids of about the right age and the sock distribution engine will go into overdrive. We had so many kids at Green Man that we had to ration the socks, and once again today two kids caught on that it’s fun attaching things to people when they aren’t looking. An hour after I met them, there was virtually nobody in the area that didn’t have a sock on the back of their shirt, hat, bag or trousers. One of the kids said to me as she was demanding more socks and saw me attach one to someone “Well at least you’re doing SOME of the work! More socks please!” For a moment I felt like a sort of reverse Fagin, teaching happy kids to add things to unwary people in London.LLLAMA (2)

By the end of the day, outside covered in wool, I was totally knackered. I’m virtually useless now. I’m off to bed. Saturday night!!

I’m doing it tomorrow (Sunda). Don’t expect me to be great company, but if you’re at The Courtyard Festival come and say hi.

 

Cosmic Trigger 3 – The Reckonerisationing.

I’m back at Cosmic Trigger, the wonderful mind widening show I saw a few weeks ago. It’s the penultimate night. They asked me to play William Burroughs. I was very happy to oblige. There’s a different actor every night. It involved learning some stuff about 23, heroin, dead captains and cosmic coincidence. As it happens they had not sent me all my lines, so I had to learn some just before going on stage. Thank God I love chaos. Or should I say Eris? Besides, learning lines is nothing new these days. Sponge-Brain.

It’s always weird, getting through a part live the first time though. You’re never totally satisfied you won’t go insane or start randomly quoting Hamlet or drop dead or explode in a sticky mess of plasma. None of those things happened, though, as far as I remember. I did sort of quote Hamlet, but that’s in the script. And now it’s done I’m in the foyer waiting for the interval so I can go in and enjoy the rest of the show.

Problem is, all this adrenaline. I feel like I’ve fallen out of a plane. I’ll be tweaking in the audience. Why do I constantly do this to myself? I’ve spent my whole career actively seeking opportunities to go on stage while not knowing what the hell’s going to happen once I’m there. I’m some complicated variety of masochist. You’d think after years now at The Factory, last minute cover, saying yes to the random that I wouldn’t get fazed jumping off that cliff. But I found it a fright. Weird and beautiful, but unreal. I know how to manage those nerves now thank God. Five years ago I’d have had ticky leg. Suddenly I was IN a show I’d seen, looking at the other characters, pretending to be one of them. All the ritual before going on stage was the same even if I’ve met some of the people I’m in with forty minutes previously. Slap on the back. Hi five. Thumbs up. Cue line. Check eyes. We all there? Walk on. “Where the heck am I? What am I doing? Oh that’s my cue to speak. What am I saying? What a lot of people. Open mouth. Words happen connected to thoughts.” They’ve anticipated calamity, so Burroughs gets a chair. He also gets a piece of paper “a speech he is practicing” AKA crib sheet to prevent dries. Now it’s done I’ll look back on this evening, refer to this blog, and wonder “did that really happen.” Right now the unspent adrenaline is enough proof. And all I had to do was remember words and speak them in a deep drawl. The girl that arrived at the same time as me chose to take all her clothes off at the top of the show. That requires very different cojones. Both figuratively and literally.

The wonderful news is that I can return home and have a bath if I choose. An actor friend from York, the recently rechristened “Superman” Granger has been staying on the sofa rehearsing an immersive Gatsby into London which I saw in York and loved. He secretly fixed the boiler when he got his first paycheck.

This evening. What an evening. I had a wonderful welcoming connected evening. And Phil “superman’s” generosity… I’m floored.

Thinking in the frame of Cosmic Trigger I could argue that some of this joy manifested as a result of the active brain change I’ve been doing on myself. I’ve been looking at my own navel so I can see yours with more context. I’ve been sorting my negative patterns, turning on, tuning in, finding the others. I gave this month to work – any work with people and money. Whatever came. Yes yes yes was all I had. The work I’ve done has been surprising and diverse. I’ve collaborated with old friends like Brian, Scott, Maureen and Robin, and with new people I admire, like Jimmy Cauty and Daisy Eris Campbell. Today a psychofinancially troublesome boiler issue was solved by kindness, and I got the chance to go on stage and speak the words of William Burroughs via Daisy’s script. Among them: “The dogma of science is that the will cannot possibly affect external forces. I think that’s just ridiculous. It’s as bad as the church. My viewpoint is the exact contrary of the scientific viewpoint.”

I like that idea. That the will can effect external forces. That there is a third way. Faith, Science or Jzzztsqw. Not that we are forced to choose. But as a spiritually inclined human who is simultaneously open hearted and pig headed, it strikes a chord.

Things have been manifesting like crazy today. Long may it continue for me and the good people in my life. Thank you Jethro. Keep moving forward friends. Keep believing. Find the joy. Find the others.

Call me a hippy all you like. I’ve just played Burroughs to a full house in a play I think is wonderful. Here’s a dressing room shot.

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Last night of this incarnation is Saturday night. You won’t get a ticket. But it might be worth a shot.

A punch in the RIB

An old friend of my father and I today suggested on Facebook that I get “a full time job” for a few months, based on my recent public musings. Today was my last day on the dodgems. There are more days, but I am not going to do them. Two people came in to learn from me. My teachings were obscure and random, as is only right. It’s a facilitation job, but it’s performance related. I tried to encourage them that their instinct was the best thing to follow. They could try and copy-paste what I do, but then it wouldn’t be theirs. I only do what I do because before my first shift I asked everybody what they needed and none of them knew so I just DID SOMETHING. Then everyone took it as the standard, because I accidentally created the role.

I’ve done so many things for money over the years. I think there is no shame in an actor doing part time work outside of acting to pay the bills. Our job is to play people. How are we supposed to play people if we don’t hang out with people who aren’t actors? I have been told, with great enthusiasm :

“Gordon Twat has left the office – we have a full time place available. We’d love you to take it.”

“A full time position – no – no that’s no good for me – I’m good with part time work.”

“Yes, but this is full time! You’d join us in the office! *noises about bonuses and ladders etc*”

“Thanks – but honestly I can’t. It has to be part time. I’m here because you need me part time.”

“What do you mean? Don’t you care about Mumphit Mumphit Hasbox & Cock?”

“That’s not even a real question. I care about the fact that I work hard, and then there’s a cheque. I am very very happy to work hard in exchange for a cheque. As long as I can take time off for auditions.”

“Oh… Um… auditions um… But – our company values? Mumphit Mumphit Hasbox and Cock….?”

I’ve had variations of that conversation twice, and that’s effectively been the end of two lovely day-jobs. Because I prefer honesty to party line. I always make it clear that my acting is primary, from the outset. But people miss the point. I will work very hard for you. But I will always prioritise my craft. Some people get it, thank God. You’re getting a very highly skilled temporary worker.

And then there’s the boats. The happiest day job I ever had was working for a tour company on the Thames. Many of you would’ve heard me enthusing about the company constantly when I worked for them. They’re great. I loved it. It’s the best way to see the city, from an open top boat. There are only 12 people per boat. At this time of year it’s glorious. I was guiding people down the Thames, sharing my encyclopedic brain and my improvisation and facilitation skills. I utterly utterly loved it. I was one of the only guides that didn’t mysteriously become unavailable in the winter, so I worked all the hardest shifts through the ice and rain, cheerfully and joyfully. Then when summer came I went to my regular summer Shakespeare at Sprite and didn’t mind missing the warm toasty shifts. Unfortunately, I often fail to notice when people don’t like me. Particularly when I like them and they don’t reciprocate. I remember telling one of the guides as I went past my flat in Chelsea “I live there.” He responded “Why do you work here then?” As if having the post code also meant having the money. As if somehow if I lived in Chelsea everything was made out of gold.

The same guy eventually became “head guide”. First among equals, I thought. Until he almost immediately sacked me for a four star review on Tripadvisor which said that I had my lunch. Which I did. She was a regular customer who had always come on a different tide direction. She expected to be guided immediately, but the tide was the other way so I just did the safety brief and then said I’d have my lunch, knowing I would guide on the way home. That is standard. She wrote a hatchet job on her phone, while we fought the inward tide because she thought I was bunking off the guiding to have my lunch – (Once again I’m too honest – I told the boat I was having my lunch – I can’t deal with poisonous people. I constantly refuse to admit they exist.) Then when I guided on the inward tide (The engines don’t have to work as hard and we aren’t miked), she had ALREADY WRITTEN HER REVIEW and she appended a paragraph and changed the star rating to four. Reading it, and her previous reviews for the same company it’s really clear. And then reading her other reviews for other holidays it was clear that she is a monster – (I vanished down that “should” hole. Someone had to. Not that it made the blindest bit of difference to the guy.) He wasn’t interested in engaging with his staff member. He had his own opinions. And he spun it. Oh he spun it. He was looking for an excuse.

I have since been told by another guide it was because “I turned up drunk for work” (Another sacked guide, – not me. “Fake News”.) Also more recently because “I swore in front of children” (I described City Hall as a gonad in front of the same woman’s 12 year old, and she was looking for any crack she could for her review. I work with kids all the time. I have never sworn at the front of the boat, nor would I.) It’s all just guyface trying to make his distaste for me legitimate, and justify the fact he didn’t like me. He disliked the idea of me, for his own reasons, that I’ll never properly understand. I try to rationalise them, because I have always been deeply upset about what he took from me, so unexpectedly and perniciously. I foolishly liked him, as well. I cared a little bit about him. I was looking forward to years of joyful work, doing something I both loved and was good at. I thought he was part of my community. Pfft.

He never knew the me of me. But I have to make peace with this, and I have tried to, even if old pain comes out in this blog. It is old enough now that it is processed. It was so unexpected, unnecessary, unwarranted. His action, though – it’s human behaviour and I must remember that. If I don’t like someone it’s because they make me uncomfortable in some way. I’ll never know how I made him or the Skipper uncomfortable outside of having a flat in Chelsea they both knew about. I’m certain they have their reasons beyond that. If me having a flat in Chelsea was the reason it would be an absurdity, but I know they are both more evolved than that.

They gave me the only two panic attacks I’ve ever had, and taught me an important lesson. That how much you love something, and how good you are at it – neither of these things mean anything compared to people’s own shit towards themselves. I’d still go back  to work there like a shot. But that’ll never be possible while the guy is “First among equals”. Which is fine because these jobs are short term, and strangely I was loving it too much. Casting directors were asking “How are the boats.” I’m an actor, dammit. The boats are irrelevant.

I didn’t know where I was going tonight with this, as is often the case. I’ve laid a huge amount of pain open to you. Some of my friends will remember me in the wake of getting the almost ridiculously callous email sacking. Thank you to those friends of mine who helped stick me back together in that period – particularly my business partner Jack. And the guy… No. I have nothing to say to him. I hope he’s well.

Be kind, people.

 

 

Rays of sunlight

Not having a boiler or a working electric shower is getting pretty wearing now. I’ve just finished an 8 hour shift on this hot day and I’m feeling … sticky. Yep. I’m really aware of my feet. I’ve had to cover myself in aftershave to mask the smell of death. But I discovered that the smell is not all coming from my feet. A pigeon had got trapped in the stairwell, died, and was reeking, festering and engendering maggots. I thought it was me. Thankfully the job of clearing it up didn’t fall to me. If I’d got there 5 minutes earlier it would have. My friend Jay got there first. Thankfully. Yuk.

Today was more performance art crazy facilitation work, now with added linelearny funtime in the gaps. Back on the Dodgems, all too aware that outside in the world, the sun is smiling on everyone. Reaching for the rays.

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Now I’m stickily awaiting the arrival of another Jay. We are going to talk about process driven Shakespeare as I absorb the last rays of the sun. At the moment I’m not clear on even their gender, but they know a load of people I know. I think they’re male and I’m guessing they’re American because they know my work on Shakespeare at Notre Dame Indiana, which is a pretty obscure point of reference.

While I’m waiting, I’ve texted everyone I know who lives in walking distance asking if I can use their shower. It would be horrible getting clean and then putting these socks back on. But I’ll do it if I must. It’ll still have a positive net result of some kind. Hot water. We take it for granted. I’m paying a massive quarterly bill for it. The less I have it, the more I want to hang draw and quarter Stuart Walkley, who sold my immersion heater for copper and charged me for the privilege.

Does anyone know a plumber that will put in a shower in Chelsea without taking one look at the post code and quoting a price that makes me bleed through my ears? It’s all very well living in my lovely flat but one of the reasons I’ve had so little work done over the years is the tendency I’ve noticed for people to add 50 quid to the quoted price once they see my flat. Or, as with Stuart, to just take what they can take.


I met American Jay. He was a man. And lovely. He came recommended to me because he cares about craft instead of ego. He wants collaborators. He’s found one. After I met him, my shower options all lined up at once. I went towards my good friend Helen.

But then I ran into Scott on the street. I often meet people like Scott, somehow. He was a stranger, crying copiously from every orifice. He was desperate, angry, and alone. He had death in his countenance. He was validating his sense of loneliness deeper with everyone who ignored him. He wasn’t after change. Just the way to Waterloo Station.  I think I know what he intended. I’ve not come across such a complicated-simple energy for a long time. There was powerless empty rage. I decided to derail him before he did it for himself and a train. I hope I did enough. I spent a long time with him. He has put up with horrible neglect all his life. It had reached a fine honed point tonight. We just spoke as equals.

There’s so much negative shit floating around in the air at the moment. We spoke in great depth. We went deep, before sending him off, hopefully more positive than he had been. Then I checked, and Helen’s flat was still good for a shower. Thank God  Now I’m wearing my sticky socks again, and it’s not as bad as all that. Compared to the things Scott has tried to normalise, stinky socks are nothing. Gods, what a fucking world. Be kind. We are so lucky.

These Are The Things That Matter

Yesterday I wrote about feeling sad. I was a little under the weather and I felt the need to talk about it in public.

This morning I woke up to hear that a man had taken time to build an explosive, crossed Manchester, waited for a crowd and blown himself up at the exit of a gig attended mostly by girls and young women. It’s hard to even contemplate it. My petty daily worries fade into insignificance.

I don’t want to call the perpetrator a “monster” because a monster has power. This guy was a total coward. I don’t even want to start trying to fathom the  chain of events that led to him planning and executing this.

I’m sure the media will pick over it all in close detail over the weeks to come with headlines like “The making of a monster” and big pictures of him looking weird and his victims having fun with puppies. It’s a huge psychic shock when something like this happens close to home. It will subtly affect how we all think when we’re in crowds, for a while to come. I wish it wouldn’t, but it will. If we’ve seen someone struck by lightning, we are more concerned when walking through thunder. I’ve always been a little more aware of crowded tubes since I said goodbye to my girlfriend as she got in the tube to go to work on the London tube bomb day and then panicked until I heard from her.

The village is under attack from the monsters in the trees. This will be used by individuals just as misguided as the perpetrator to justify acts of hatred against people who might be associable with the guy that did this. His dark work will punch a hole in the air. Bad things will come through that hole. We must combat that.

I like that much of the social media I’ve seen on this bombing has been talking about how people in Manchester are clubbing together, donating blood, making cups of tea, driving people home. Surely we have to try to come together and not apart, so the socially awkward misfit who feels ostracised is included and welcomed rather than left alone to contemplate perpetrating horrors.

This evening I went to The Globe, and entertained people with sonnets and snippets. Gyles Brandreth was present, which surprised and pleased me. He came to see me as Malvolio in Edinburgh many years ago, and was wonderfully positive and supportive in the months after the show. It was good to see him again even if I was working. We did our best to make a lovely night in a crowded room.

All of us must continue to go about our business untouched by the actions of this lonely misfit. We can’t constrain our movements or our natural behaviours. The monsters in the woods feed on our fear. Occasionally a mixed up human does a horrible thing and destroys so much trust, so many lives. If we react with fear it empowers his deluded intention. Please come together now. React with love. Here’s John Cooper Clarke (on climate change) but still –

These are the days that matter.


The dangerous rays, I would argue, are the tendrils of fear and hate that will come out of this hole that is blown in Manchester. Let’s gather together to try to close it quickly if we can. Meantime my heart hurts for the loved ones of the victims. For their families. I’m writing this is the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, returning from work so I thought I’d take a picture of that.ZOE_0023

Be kind. Be generous. Try to act without fear. X

Free Cosmic Axes

I felt sad this morning. Sometimes sadness can just hit you. I was walking around with it. I couldn’t shake it. It’s odd how it’s hard to unpick negative emotions. I couldn’t work out why I felt sad. So I just felt sad. And all the sad things jostled for supremacy in my imagination. Sometimes our insecurities can get hold of megaphones and just start riffing to us. And if we’ve been drinking for two consecutive days, it doesn’t occur to us that it might be just a chemical malaise.

I had the good fortune to get a call from Hannah this morning when I was deep in sadness. She is a warrior, and she’s got perspective. With little to no effort she transformed the inside of my head. She then got me to send her a list of ten things I was grateful for. Easiest list I’ve ever made, but an important list to make. How unutterably brilliant to have met someone like her. She’s a healer.

Once, thanks to Hannah, I was done with the self doubt, I met up with my business partner Jack to get a load of spears and axes that had been donated to the Beowulf project by someone I barely know. Thank you Aisleen. She’s another theatre maker and knows enough about how this all works that she knows we’re the right people to say “I’ve got a load of oversized weapons, do you want them?” We went to a self storage locker in Chiswick armed with all the codes, and not knowing what would be there. “Just leave it empty when you’re done.” Ten foot spears and axes is what we found. Lots of them. Somehow we managed to get them in the car. Here’s Jack modelling some of the axes.

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Also I got a message from the universe via my friend Jethro, right when I was trying to be sad. Some of you may remember how struck I was by  Cosmic Trigger, the psychedelic show he’s in about the life of Robert Anton Wilson. He tells me they have a spot for an actor to play William Burroughs this coming Friday 26th May. They use a different actor every night. I’ve said yes to Friday, so that’s what I’ll be up to, at The Cockpit Theatre. I think I’ll get sent some lines in the next day or so. It’s a very small part, of course considering they shift it every night. As far as I remember, what I say has to do with the significance of the number 23. I could probably riff it if I get nothing as it’s only a small part, but I’ve been youtubing the dude since I got the call and oddly his voice and his look are not far from mine. I have qualities in common with him. It’s fun playing someone real and recent because you can vanish into a youtube hole. Then you have a choice: do an impression, get his point across, or do both. Ideally I want to do both, but I am more concerned here about content than form. Still I am going to be working on my Burroughs voice a lot in the next few days. So, dear reader,  if you want to see something beautifully trippy, very different, interesting, fun and strong, WITH ME INVOLVED come this Friday the 26th to Cosmic Trigger. Remember it is 3 hours 45 minutes long and I’ll be on for 5 of them. Remember it is about the beat generation, and hallucinogens. If that still feels okay, COME PLAY. If that doesn’t, don’t. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.

 

Surprises

IMAG0723Newsflash: We have a birthday every year. When we’re kids it’s great fun. We get to eat loads of jelly and play pass the parcel and get presents. They’re days that stand out as out of the ordinary. My oldest consciously located memory is on my fourth birthday, on a staircase in Jersey, contemplating the inevitable passage of time properly for the first time while catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror. Last week it was Brian’s birthday, and he spent it flying to New York. He had me jump on him at midnight, and cook him birthday breakfast before he flew, but that was it. Airplane birthday. So we had a surprise lined up for him today.

The people I love seem to enjoy springing surprise parties on their friends. Minnie organised one for my birthday a few years ago. Before I flew to LA, Brian organised a surprise farewell bash for me. It was great. I got to hang out with some dear old friends. This time we made one for Brian. Mel, his girlfriend, organised it and put the word about and people came from all over the country to meet at Above the Arts. It was delightful. I had to say goodbye to him as he left the flat, looking like I wasn’t going anywhere. As soon as he was out the door I threw clothes on and sprinted to the tube station so I could beat him to the party. Sprinting was no fun, as you’d appreciate if you read between the lines of last night’s blog and made sense of quite how catastrophically hammered I was yesterday. I was feeling pretty horrible by the time I got into the train, sweating old booze through my eyes.

It was worth it for the look on his face. Considering he loves springing surprises on others, he hadn’t thought to expect that we’d do it for him. Mel had organised a Pirate and Princess kids party. There was cheese instead of jelly. We played pass the parcel, pin the patch on the pirate and musical bumps. It was delightfully immature, augmented by actual kids who were playing as hard as we were. I’m glad I took the day off work for it. Sometimes it’s good to just get a load of friends into a room together and behave like children. And today was the first day I’ve had for a while where I haven’t put pressure on myself to turn up. I could just relax, enjoy good company and be a bit hungover. A proper Sunday. Now I’m sitting on the warm sofa at home, listening to good music, and playing silly games with lovely people. I’ll probably be in bed very soon charging up for the coming week. But right now I’ve been given a can of JD and coke and told that if I don’t drink it I’ll be “a gimpy bellend”. *Rolls eyes* *cracks can* *signs off*